A series of earthquakes centered just offshore of Manta and Puerto Lopez has Manabí Province residents on edge. Thursday saw more than a dozen quakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater while a 5.1 temblor shook the area on Wednesday.
“Earthquake swarms in this region are not unusual since we sit on top of the tectonic plate subduction zone,” says Cristian Torres, National Risk and Emergency Management Services director. “This does not necessarily mean that a large earthquake is coming but we cannot forgot the 2016 disaster and must be prepared.”
The massive 7.8 earthquake that hit the area in April 2016, killing hundreds in Manabí and Esmeraldas Provinces, was centered just north of the current swarm. The quake caused an estimated $3 billion in damage, destroying more than 40,000 structures.
Torres has held a series of meetings with local officials, including the governor and emergency response personnel, since the quakes began late last week. “We are in the process of reviewing our protocols and making sure we are ready in the event of a large earthquake. The message is to avoid panic but to understand that we must be ready to provide assistance if a damaging event occurs.”
He added: “As of Thursday afternoon, we have seen little serious damage but are checking out reports on a continuing basis.”
Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute says there have been more than 700 quakes of 2.5 or greater magnitude since last Friday, with 118 of them coming Wednesday. “We are monitoring the situation and providing information to risk management and emergency services,” the institute said in a statement. “These swarms are typically associated with readjustments in the tectonic plates and it is difficult to predict if a larger seismic event is imminent. Swarms can continue for weeks and even months.”
According to the institute, the earthquakes in the current swarm are centered 15 to 25 kilometers off the Ecuadorian mainland.